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tv   General John Nicholson Tells Senate We are in a Stalemate in Afghanistan  CSPAN  February 10, 2017 10:03am-12:13pm EST

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afghanistan is a measurably -- is measurably more difficult if not impossible. the sanctuaries must be eliminated. as pakistani leaders have committed to doing, the new administration must work with the congress to determine what additional actions are necessary to ensure that the enemies we continue to fight in afghanistan infine -- can find no haven pakistan or any other country. america has been at war in afghanistan for 15 years. wary as some americans may be of this long conflict, it is an imperative that we see our
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mission through to success. we see what happens when we fail to be vigilant. the threats we face are real and the stakes are high. not just for the lives of the afghan people and the stability of the region, but for america's national security. senator reid? senator reid: thank you very much, mr. chairman. i would like to join you in welcoming general nicholson. thank you for your service and for your presence today. afghanistan and the pakistan area is home to the highest concentration of designated terrorist organizations in the world. given this context, it is important that the unites and coalition with nato continue our commitment to the security and stability of pakistan. furthermore, whether passive or deliberate, terrorist organizations in pakistan must end.
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decisions made lester my president obama to maintain approximately 84,000 troops and afghanistan through 2017, and provide support to the security forces laid the foundation for sustainable u.s. and international presence and afghanistan. the decision also sent an important message to afghans, the taliban and others in the , region, including pakistan, regarding the commitment of the united states to continue progress in afghanistan. assuming the continued imitation of the afghan government and support of its people, i believe an approach that provide flexibility in the number of people to floyd there. january 2017 marked the second year of forces. these forces continued to demonstrate determination and operational cohesion, even as they have been confronted by an array of challenges including
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, intensified urban combat and conflict. this sustained operational temple is also a challenge to ongoing coalition efforts. this sustained operation is a challenge to contribute to the difficulties to retrain troops. in addition in addition, , -- in addition, sustained combat operations have taken a particular toll on the afghan operation forces. particularly those who have been relied on heavily. it has resulted in a high number of casualties. general nicholson, i look forward to your assessment and stance on fulfilling shortfalls. afghanistan must remain a key pillar of our long-term global counterterrorism strategy. be continue to observe more aggressive taliban operations
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capable of pressuring the afghan security force on multiple fronts. this is compounded by elements of the so-called islamic state in iraq or isil-k. recently, the pakistani military has increased operations on their side of the border. this resulted in an increased number of fighters moving into afghanistan, which is ironic, but the actual outcome of their operation. in addition, elements of al -- al qaeda, the taliban and , other associated groups into two have a safe heaven along the -- groups along the afghanistan/pakistan border. the national unity government has demonstrated the will to work through a complex set of issues.
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i hope they will continue to do so. particularly with respect to anticorruption, economic development, and other government initiatives, which will be centered on long-term success. general i look forward to your , assessment on the context on which our efforts are occurring. once again, general, thank you for your service to the country. i look forward to your testimony. senator mccain: thank you. welcome, general. i think you need to punch the -- there you go. general nicholson: thank you, sir. chairman mccain, ranking member reid, thank you for the honor of appearing before you today. i appreciate the opportunity to update you on the mission in afghanistan. first, i want to thank the
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committee for your leadership and dedication to the men and women of the united states forces in afghanistan of resolute support mission. appreciate your visits to afghanistan and your steadfast support protects our homeland. your commitment is also in building an in during partner in in national afghan -- building an in during partner in the afghan national security defense forces. they know that we support them. it gives them the confidence they need to do their job. i would like to start by honoring the men and women who have served in afghanistan are currently deployed there. our u.s. service members, our nato allies, and by the way, the nato allies that invoked article five after 9/11 and have been , buyers site ever since in afghanistan. and our nato partners who have joined the mission in afghanistan. i want to highlight the nato framework nations, italy, germany, and turkey, who provide funding. and our non-nato partners such
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as georgia, who is the largest non-nato contribute nation. we should also member that is we sit here today, five americans and two from our coalition partners are being held hostage at unknown locations in the region by members of the taliban network. i would also like to highlight the case of a doctor who has been unjustly imprisoned. brave to a knowledge of men and women of the afghan security forces, and the people of afghanistan are fighting for a secure and stable country. the success of our mission depends on their courage, determination, and sacrifice. we especially remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and afghanistan. their strength in the strength of their families inspires us to do our jobs. and our pledges that we will deliver on their sacrifice.
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main objective in afghanistan is to prevent our country from being used -- to prevent this country from being used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack the united states and our allies. we performed two complementary missions. the u.s. counterterrorism mission, and the nato trained devised an assist mission. of the 98 u.s. designated terrorist groups globally, 20 operate in the afghanistan-pakistan region. along with three violent extremist organizations. this is the highest concentration of terrorist groups anywhere in the world, which underscores the importance of our counterterrorism platform in the central asia and south asia region, which protects our homeland. we remain very focused on the defeat of al qaeda, and it's associates, as well as the defeat of the islamic state, which is the isil affiliate in afghanistan. last year, the afghan forces developed and implemented a detailed campaign plan to take
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the fight to the enemy. it was a hard fight, but the afghan forces prevailed. they prevented the taliban from accomplishing any of their strategic objectives. and the authorities and airpower, which i was granted in june, were absolutely critical to the success of the fight last year. the afghan special operations forces also played a crucial role. as a result of our training and partnering, the 17,000 strong afghan special forces are the best in the region. they not operate independently on roughly 80% of their missions. the afghan air force is also rapidly gaining capability. their first round attack aircraft entered the fight in april. and they are not integrating intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets into their new targeting process. they are making great progress. congressional approval is key to
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the offenses capability of the afghan national defense forces. there is an urgency to the request in order to get the aircrews into the fight as soon as possible. i do remain concerned about the influence of certain external actors, particularly russia and afghanho undermine the government's efforts to grady stable afghanistan. our relationship with afghanistan is best assessed through a holistic review. many nations are committed to the success of afghanistan. july, warsaw summit last nato reaffirmed its commitment fourstain the effort for more years until at the brussels 2020. conference, 75 countries and organizations confirmed their intention to provide $52.5 billion to afghans needs.
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this plays a very positive role going into the future. $1ia has dedicated another billion on top of the $2 billion they have already given and we's appreciate -- given and we appreciate their support. international commitment plays important on the confidence of the afghan people and government. the afghan security forces fought bravely and 2016. they will do the same this year and in the years ahead. the afghan people have confidence in their security services. and they do not want the taliban to return. they know all too well what that means. we have an exceptional partnership with the president, the chief executive, the security forces, and the people of afghanistan. the president is making bold reforms and implementing anticorruption measures to
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professionalize and improve the afghan security forces. the government of afghanistan is committed to peace and reconciliation. however, so long as the safe haven persists the path to , reconciliation will be externally difficult. afghanistan once peace and we hope their neighbors realize their best interests are also served by a peaceful and prosperous afghanistan. mr. chairman, committee members -- it is a privilege to appear in front of you and i look for to answer your questions. senator mccain: thank you very much, general. in your overall assessment, are we winning or losing? general nicholson: chairman, i believe we are in a stalemate. senator mccain: thank you. of course, our afghan partners have been sustaining very significant losses. i'm not sure that is sustainable. the level of losses that they have experienced? general nicholson: we are
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concerned about the level of losses. the recurrent recruitment replaces the level of losses that they are experiencing, however, it does not allow them to get to their full authorized strength, which they are below. senator mccain: according to the ig, the taliban controls 15% more territory than they did in 2015. you agree with that? general nicholson: yes, mr. chairman, i do. senator mccain: as you know, 5000 coalition troops and 12,000 american troops -- numbers are just one parameter, but it is an important parameter. how many more do you need to get this stalemate reversed?
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general nicholson: mr. chairman, i have adequate resourcing and my counterterrorism mission. and, in my train and assist mission, we have a shortfall of a few thousand. this is in the nato, train, and advise mission. it can come from the u.s. and allies. senator mccain: should it be a concern to all of us that you now have russia, iran, and al qaeda now playing significant roles? some more then the other, but that was not the case of couple of years ago, was it? general nicholson: i agree, there has been an increase in external actors interfering in the afghan attainment of peace and stability. senator mccain: and, the russian involvement? general nicholson: the russian involvement this year has become more difficult. first, they had begun to
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publicly legitimize the taliban. this narrative is the taliban is fighting the islamic state. and the afghan government is not fighting the islamic state, therefore, there could be a spillover of this group into the region. this is a false narrative. the afghan government, along with the u.s. counterterrorism forces, are successfully fighting against islamic state in afghanistan. this year alone we reduced their , fighters by half, territory by two thirds, we killed their leader, in fact, the top 12 leaders, and continue to disrupt their operations. senator mccain: what is your view of what we need to do concerning the safe haven issue in pakistan? general nicholson: it is very difficult to succeed on the battlefield when your enemy enjoys external support and safe haven. i think we need to work closely with pakistan. senator mccain: they did some good work, didn't they? general nicholson: they did, and
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we have great respect for the operation they conducted. it was a very large and significant operation. senator mccain: the problem is the network -- general nicholson: that is correct. we still have enemies -- enemy sanctuaries with taliban leadership in other cities within the tribal areas. senator mccain: recently, have your rules of engagement been to the point where you have a greater ability to combat the enemy? general nicholson: the rules of engagement i gained in june were instrumental to our success this year. a clearly helped us throughout the year -- they clearly helped us throughout the year. they include the use of enablers, most notable, airpower. sen. mccain: as you pointed out in your opening statement, the afghans want to fight for
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themselves? gen. nicholson: absolutely. sen. mccain: they do not want us to go in and fight for them. general nicholson: right. senator mccain: but, if they are to be effective, they need support and capability, including, air capability, that we are now training them for. for example i am proud that many , of them are training in f-16s in tucson, arizona. air give ability important component of their capability of assuming responsibilities from us? gen. nicholson: yes, mr. chairman, if i can elaborate on that a little bit. offensive capability is what will break the stalemate in afghanistan. the key capabilities are the special forces and the air force. this investment, which we are requesting, will help them as , you mentioned, take over responsibility for their own air support, and will lead to an offensive capability that allows them to overmatch the taliban,
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on theother group battlefield. senator mccain: it might be nice if they could come to the united states to train. general nicholson: yes, sir, and they look forward to it. senator mccain: which, they are not allowed to do at the moment. senator reid. senator reid: please relate our -- please relate our gratitude and thanks to the men and women that you lead. not just u.s. forces, but nato forces. you have stated that your counterterrorism platform, both personnel and equipment, has been more than that of white -- has been more than adequate? general nicholson: we have adequate resources. when we need to do operations, assets into the country. that is why it is adequate. there is the capability to move assets. this has proven to be a successful tactic. senator reid: the need for more
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manpower is on the train, advise, and assist area. at this juncture, you are operating at the core level? general nicholson: that is correct, senator. senator reid: any exceptions? general nicholson: since last -- in the last summer when we , gained the new authorities in june, we created new packages , which we would push down below the core level. this was something we put together based on the quiteities and it proved successful last year. but we would like to be able to advise below the core level. this is something nato has agreed to. it is strictly a question of manning at this senator reid: so point. you would have more of these teams below level? -- below the core level? individual am a company platoon level? general nicholson: most likely at the brigade level. senator reid: our nato allies
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willing to assist? general nicholson: our german allies provided a package. this was great help. italian allies in the west are looking at something similar. that we have been able to aroundte u.s. packages the country as required in a seamless manner. senator reid: both the chairman and myself have commented on the criticality of dealing with pakistan. it is a very complicated situation, as you pointed out. i have conducted credible operations. they seem --hand, their intelligence service seems to be assisting others. you have had some dealings with the new chief of staff of the army. does it make sense to focus our
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persuasive efforts on not the overall country, but on specific elements within pakistan? general nicholson: i have great respect for the pakistan military and its leaders. i'm developing, i believe, a positive and constructive relationship with the general. again, we have great respect for the operations. as both you and the chairman have mentioned, the pakistan people have also suffered from the scourge of terrorism. and quite sincerely want to eliminate those terrorists attacking their society. i would like to highlight one example -- this year counterterrorism efforts killed , someone named omar khalifa. he was the head of a group for perpetuating the horrendous attack on a school. this was the attack that killed over 130 children. the two-year commemoration
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occurred in this is an example december. of how the united states is working with pakistan against our common enemies. we also, in a raid in eastern afghanistan, liberated this one -- liberated the son of the former pakistani prime minister, and returned him to his family in pakistan. so i highlight these as examples on how the u.s. is working with pakistan against common enemies. but we need to improve any areas that you mentioned. we need to improve the pressure applied on the taliban on the pakistan side of the border. senator reid: again, thank you for your service. i continue to look forward to your continued service. thank you. general nicholson: thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. you mentioned three things when you were nice enough to come to the office. we had a nice visit. two of the things you have responded to, so i will not bring them up.
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one was, of course, the fact that the afghan security forces is their control has gone down to 57% from 72%. you did respond to with the chairman's question. the second thing, which you pretty much answered, is talking about troop levels. as it is right now, we have about 12,500 total? general nicholson: yes, sir. >> you said a minute ago that the shortfall is a few thousand. is that something we need to correct in order to accomplish what we are trying to a cop is right now? a few thousand is referring to ours, or the total of allies in the figure? general nicholson: this is in the area of training, advice, advise and assist.
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these contributions could come from our allies as well as the united states. we have identified a requirement and the desire to advise below the core level. these additional forces would allow us to thicken the advisory efforts across the afghan ministries and below the core level. this is a core level that i am currently in discussion with my chain of command. and i know that in the coming weeks when secretary mattis has a chance to attend the defense visit theoals and theater, we will be able to discuss this in greater detail. >> that clarification is good and necessary because the media was covering this and we want to , make sure we are clear here. gen. nicholson: thank you, sir. make thing i wanted to cover and it is something that -- you know, we have these private meetings with you and all the great people, and i am
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very proud of all of you. we have that opportunity. you also have the opportunity to consult with us because we have a little closer contact with the people were paying for all of this. ,ne of the problems we have wen in my state of oklahoma, have been there 15 years now and have been doing this -- the strongest thing i can say is something i honestly believe in my heart. that is, if we do not do it over there, it will be done in the homeland. you addressed this in your written statement. when you said, your predecessor, general campbell said, if we do not stay engaged to keep the predecessor down, it will come back to the homeland. then you reemphasized in your opening statement. what i would like to do, i think it is worth getting it into the
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record here, as to how this might affect something on our homeland. we understand this and we have a lot of things and confidential briefings, but it is important for the country to know that any comments that you can make on a specifics? they had actually made plans to attack on the mainland. can you comment on that? general nicholson: yes, senator, thank you. thank you for the opportunity to articulate on this. we believe, as we said, that our operations in afghanistan directly protect the homeland. the individual you are referring sir -- we killed him on october 23 in eastern afghanistan and a remote area. external operations
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director for al qaeda and involved in plotting against the u.s. homeland. this is one example, without getting into classified details, of a specific terrorist operating in afghanistan, who was involved in plotting against the u.s. homeland. more importantly, his organization and affiliates have been severely degraded as you know, and our objective is to destroy them in afghanistan. we will continue to keep pressure. in order to do that, we need to maintain the counterterrorism platform that we have in afghanistan. this is how it directly relates to our national security at home. i would also add, senator, if i at the height of our engagement may, in afghanistan, over the past 15 years, we were over 100,000 troops. we are now down to 10% of that. so as we look at this commitment over time, that surge we did in afghanistan was to build the afghan security forces.
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now it is they doing most of the fighting. from the height of our assistance to the afghan security forces was $10 billion to $12 billion. we are now down to about for the $3.5 billion afghan security forces fund. to supportonal funds our troops. there has been a reduction in the overall cost of this mission. >> i appreciate that. my time has expired. but it is the homeland connection that we need to be armed with an you have done a very good job, general. thank you. senator mccain: senator warren. senator warren: thank you chairman, and thank you, general nicholson. thank you for taking command of our mission in afghanistan, and thank you for meeting with the earlier this week. i appreciate the generosity of your time. we officially ended the combat mission in afghanistan at the end of 2014, but we obviously maintain a significant presence there. one of our primary objectives is
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to help build and sustain the capacity of the national afghan forces to secure their own country. that includes paying salaries for afghan personnel. i understand why this kind of support is powerfully important when you are trying to build a local force, but in a report issued last month identifying the greatest threats to the success of our mission, the inspector general for afghan reconstruction repeated the nagging problem of salaries being paid to nonexistent or so-called ghost soldiers and ghost police officers. to succeed, i understand that the afghan forces must be trained and capable, but above all, they must be fully manned. there must be people there. although they are authorized reports had, estimated there are still tens of thousands of those ghost personnel who are getting salaries included in those
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numbers. that means the strength of the afghan forces must be substantially less. it is dangerous for our troops and damaging to the mission. it is also plain old corruption and the american taxpayers are footing the bill. general, i know that you have recently identified corruption as a serious problem that you wanted to tackle. one of the biggest challenges facing afghan security forces. i wonder, could you just because the question of how we are helping the afghan ministries of -- ofe and interior defense and developing a system to help eliminate this problem? gen. nicholson: it is a critical issue. as we look at the high casualty rates last year, the causes we identified were number 1 -- failures in leadership on the battlefield. second -- was corruption as you highlighted.
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the corruption primarily has occurred in the pay system and the personnel system, ma'am. also in the supply system. the third factor of high casualties was tactics and primarily the reduction of the checkpoints that become more vulnerable to attack. back to the point of corruption. how to improve it? i commented on the president's in going after this. we have done a number of things. on ghost soldiers, you are correct. we believe there are tens of thousands of soldiers in the field that had been reported. guardk closely with the going forward on this and the governor of afghanistan. so, this year in response to this problem, we've issued a letter to the afghan government advising them that we are withholding the funding for
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those soldiers who we cannot .ccount for previously, we pay based upon the number that they stated they had. the biometric enrollment is ongoing. completinghave that the next four to five months. then, we will give them the money for those soldiers who are by metrically enrolled. we have asked for capabilities to better follow our money through the afghan ministries to follow the money and ensure it is not being inappropriately diverted so we can be good stewards of our taxpayer' sources. senator warren: thank you very much, general. we have been an afghan for 15 years. according to the special inspector general, we are spending $13 million every day to be in afghanistan.
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$13 million. more than 2000 american servicemembers have made the ultimate sacrifice there. 8400 american servicemembers are there today along with thousands of diplomatic personnel and contractors. cannot and should not be in afghanistan forever. must be to help afghanistan build a self-sustaining force capable of securing the country so our u.s. troops can come home. and i appreciate your work in this direction. thank you, general. thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you mr. chairman and thank you general for your service in the service of those you command. i appreciate -- it is appreciated by everyone in this country. when you and i had a conversation in my office, we talked about additional capabilities that you would need
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, and we specifically focused in on the contractors that are in afghanistan now. could you talk about the consequences of the so-called boots on the ground limitation that we are looking at particularly with respect to the reliance that we have on contractors? gen. nicholson: it has two implications. it is an application for us on the ground in afghanistan, but for over already miss of our on services which is --but for overall grittiness on our services -- but for overall readiness. we substituted contractors for soldiers in order to meet the fourth manning levels. i will give you an example. in the case of our aviation brigade -- we had the first infantry division in afghanistan
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who deployed with their helicopters and pilots. but because of our troop limitations, we let their mechanic back in fort riley and sets to did contract mechanics in order to optimize the amount of actual uniform soldiers. maintenancet for runs into the tens of millions of dollars in the soldiers who are trained to be mechanics are sitting back not having the opportunity to do their job. this has a direct impact on army ready this and costs us more money. begun these discussions with the administration and the secretary mattis, this is one of the issues that we put on the table, is how to optimize grittiness and our performance on the battlefield by managing by objective, and not by forced manning level. with contractors, we have a two to one ratio of contractors to
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soldiers. at deploying hold units is that apportions of units, this would enable us to reduce our contractor load somewhat, and be better for service readiness. >> i imagine you will raise the concern for more flexibility of these limitations when you are able to have those discussions? gen. nicholson: yes, senator. >> you spoke about the increasing of russian afghanistan and that growing relationship that they are having with the taliban. can you elaborate on that a little bit more? gen. nicholson: yes, ma'am. in addition to the public legitimizing of the taliban, which is surprising given that they have evolved into a norco excursions he with narcotics and illegal mining and other forms
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of criminal activity to fund hasr operations, russia legitimized them with this false narrative of fighting isil-k. they have a series of meetings in moscow which the afghan have not been invited for the first several meetings. afghanistan is trying to work with all of its neighbors and stakeholders and reached out to the russians about this. that a peace and reconciliation process in afghanistan should be afghan-led. this has been the position of the united states government, and we believe this will be the most lasting and effective arrangement. ultimately, what -- where we are trying to go is to get to a point where they reconcile? war they haveong experienced, and be able to move
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forward with a prosperous country. >> thank you, general. thank you, mr. chairman. >> iq, mr. chairman and general nicholson -- thank you, mr. chairman and general nicholson. i enjoy the time we had in my office talking about a number of issues. during this hearing, number of folks has reference inspector general's report. i want to highlight some of those findings that i find particularly striking and ask a question. as others have mentioned, since 240 seven military personnel have died. 20,000 have been wounded. for inflation, the u.s. has spent more on afghanistan's reconstruction than it did on the marshall plan to rebuild western europe after world war ii. reconstructing afghanistan has now become the largest expenditure to build a single country and our nation's history. areafghan security forces
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not capable of providing security for the whole country. the afghan government cannot sustain many of the investments that the u.s. taxpayers have made in the country. despite a u.s. investment of $8.5 billion in counter narcotics, afghan opium production is now at an all-time high. despite $70 billion in u.s. investment in afghan security forces, only 63% of the country is under government control. corruption continues to erode legitimacy. afghanistanrs, still cannot support itself financially or functionally and longtime financial assistance will be required if the country is to survive. not a good record after 15 years of involvement in afghanistan. after what i heard, it has become a complicated with the russian involvement in chinese involvement in the list goes on. is a lot of what
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i've heard over the last 15 years of what the united states will be doing in afghanistan. what are we going to do that will be different that is not thisdone in 15 years given pretty damaging report over the last 15 years? gen. nicholson: thank you, senator. i appreciate the opportunity to talk about the plan. i express our appreciation for the great support from this body to sustain this effort. our number one objective is to protect the homeland, and we have not had another attack on the homeland in the 15 years we had been there. that is point number one. i-80 knowledge fully the significant -- i acknowledge fully the cost we have made in afghanistan. we are atntion that 10% of where we once was in terms of troop commitment, and reduced other spinach are
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significantly. yes, the problems persist and i do not want to minimize those. what we have with their president is a partner who is willing to boldly go after those problems. this is significant. i offer the example of the ghost soldiers. this was something that he was willing to do that we had previously not been able to do. the plans we share are working with the afghan government, which their president calls their roadmap -- four-year road mac. after the warsaw summit of 2016 when the allies granted four more years of commitment to afghanistan, their president sat down with his team and us and said, how are we going to achieve success in the next four years? we're working on that plan now. expanding thelves amount of control that the government has over the population.
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i should point out that this investment that we have made has resulted in an afghan population that almost universally -- 87% reject the taliban and do not want to return to the taliban. three quarters of the population have great confidence in their security forces. this is a population and a government who want to work with us and need our support. deal strategically, it is a critically important region of the world. this is a tough neighborhood -- iraq, china, central asia. we have a partner in afghanistan. a islamic republic that wants to partner with us against terrorism. we have a population who reject terrorism. and we have an ability to have a counterterrorism platform and a -- platform in an important part of the world. it means helping afghans to achieve greater population control. that will enable us to have the
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counterterrorism platform to protect our homeland and those of our allies. if we can get to a place of reconciliation, that we then bring a degree of stability to this critical region that will benefit the entire neighborhood to include india, china, and everyone. in my initial conversations with my new chain of command, we have test upon all of these areas. your concerns and the concerns of this committee are at the top of the list as we discussed this going forward on how we can achieve success in afghanistan going forward to protect our national interest? >> think you, general. gen. nicholson: thank you, senator. >> there are some of us who predicted this actual scenario taking place at the previous president withdrew our forces to levels that put the remaining jeopardy and in
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doomed to failure because everything ranging from rules of engagement that required a national security council, approval for an attack, to the unnecessary and unwarranted reduction of forces, which led us to the position we are in today, which was predicted. predicted by many of us who know something about warfare. senator cotton. cotton: general, welcome back. skepticism about the ongoing mission. there are a couple of things that benefit the afghan people. they are safer. more gdp per capita. they had better education, especially for girls. those are all great things. about safetynder and education and safety of the american people.
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good you tell us in plain language, what are working folks out in arkansas getting for more than 15 years of our presence in afghanistan? gen. nicholson: thank you so much, sir for your support. our number one goal is to protect the homeland from any attack emanating from the region. we have achieved that in the last 15 years, however, we need to stay on top of it because this confluence of 20 terrorist groups in the region. ngbelieve this is an enduri effort. success might be the maintenance of this counterterrorism effort to keep pressure on these groups. it means we would destroy qaedac state and al inside afghanistan, which is something we are actively pursuing every day. it means that we would help the afghan security forces and government to extend their
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control to a larger and larger percentage of the population. it means we would help afghanistan become ideally a place where reconciliation is achieved, and become a more stable and prosperous and critical part of the world. i recognize the distance of afghanistan and the length of this has been challenging for the american people to support. however, i personally believe that this effort that we are undertaking is protecting the homeland and preventing these terrorists from bringing their fight to our doorstep. >> if the united states said 50 minutes is long enough and we just rolled up our operation and come home, do you think we would face the risk of an attack? gen. nicholson: definitely. may year ago, your predecessor, general campbell,
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iran was on the role playing on afghanistan. can you give us your view on what iran has been up to? gen. nicholson: they are directly supporting the taliban and in western afghanistan. there is a compass relationship between afghanistan and iran. did involve security matters like this. they are recruiting afghan shiite to fight against islamic state in syria and iraq. there are areas of copper operation -- there are areas of cooperation between iran and afghanistan. they signed an agreement over a port in southern afghanistan. very beneficial to afghanistan in terms of economic development. there are conversations about water treaties between afghanistan and iran. iran needs afghanistan's water. there is an ongoing relationship and has potential benefits for
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both parties, but it has important security equities. is raisinggovernment these issues with the government of iran and asking them not to support the television and undermine the -- to support the taliban and undermine the afghan government. >> are they exclusively -- of a supporting them throughout the country? goingicholson: without into classified information, it is primarily in the west. their financial inroads go around the country in the north and in kabul in particular. >> they are supporting a sunni-led movement of the taliban. they are creating -- they are recruiting shiite to fight? it seems like it is complex. yes, senator.:
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i agree with that. when you look at russia and iranian actions in afghanistan, i believe they are there in part .o undermine the u.s. and nato it is complex as you point out. concerned about these fighters returning to what -- and if they will become -- >> thank you. mr. chairman, i want to continue this discussion about isil. the afghan interior ministry early january said islamic state was now active in at least 11 of the county's 34 districts. we have seen reports that russia, china, and pakistan met in moscow to discuss the
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influence of afghanistan and the security situation there. what is your understanding of isil's presents in afghanistan -- i'm so's presence in afghanistan. senatorgen. nicholson: thank yo, senator. there is no u.s. role in the russian dialogue as far as i understand with respect to isil. this is a conference where they invited china, pakistan, and andr regional countries i believe in the next meeting they extended an invitation to afghanistan. back to isolate, we saw the islamist state province was formed by existing fighters and existing groups in afghanistan and pakistan. their membership has come from the tpp, a pakistan-based opponent of the
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pakistan regime. these fighters in mass joint muscle and fund the initial group of fighters who then moved into afghanistan into the province and the spread was out to about 11 districts initially . they have had recruitment activities around the country, but they attempted to establish their form of the caliphate starting in the province with the q this was the aspiration, but they failed to achieve it. when authorities were granted for the u.s. to begin striking the islamic state, since that time, we have worked closely with the, doing several deliberate operations against the islamic state and afghanistan. during the time of my command, we have done three of these operations. we have shrunk their geographic space from this larger 11 district number down to a smaller 3-4 districts. .ut they are still there
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-- on the ability to conduct suicide attacks inside kabul and elsewhere. mosques.ck shiite they have attacked on religious holidays. we have seen a definite shia connection. universallys rejected by the afghan people. these are primarily non-afghans in the group could i. in addition, we have respect to and are there afghans, yes, but very few. senator: which countries are they from? gen. nicholson: they are from uzbekistan.d is pakista
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senator: kinney amplified more about the -- can you amplify more about the u.s. and pakistan relationship and the parts of the country where they are dominant? what is your assessment of pakistan's commitment to deny the taliban? gen. nicholson: this is a complex relationship between afghanistan and pakistan. the president wants peace in the region. in the past, they have worked together on a process for peace that most recently was called the quadrilateral process last spring. certaingressed to a point, but then the taliban rejected the peace process. at that point, we were working very closely with pakistan. since then, we have lost ground. i will say that the pakistan leadership is articulated and
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they support are ejected of a stable and peaceful afghanistan. thus far, we have not seen this translate into any change in terms of behavior, if you will. in terms of freedom of action to operate from sanctuaries in pakistan. senator: with my last few seconds, there was a report that pilotrst female afghan sought asylum in december. she said things were getting worse. what is the status and have this madee successes we them around? gen. nicholson: let me expand the aperture beyond the services although we will come back to that. the taliban were there only one million children were in school. have women parliamentarian,
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women ministers, women governors, women embers of the provincial councils. we are making progress across the board on the role of women in society and throughout their .ilitary coul this is i high priority for the president's wife. on ther a meeting quarterly basis called women and security and all the ministers come to this. my wife has attended this meeting. we worked together on theseeaer
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forward that enables us to continue our efforts, but in an environment of a prosperous, stable afghanistan. sen. perdue: sir, thank you for your professionalism and leadership. gen. nicholson: thank you, sir. sen. ernst: thank you, general. thanks to your family and most importantly, please tell all the men and women that you lead how much we respect the choices they have made to protect our country. i am going to be a broken record again and get to contracting. i had a chance to review the cigar report. even though we have made progress, and i knowledge we have made progress, there are still some problems that we have to talk about. we are talking about $100 billion to contractors in afghanistan in the last eight years.
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this is real money. this is a significant amount of taxpayer resources that are going to contractors. the report cites problems that are cited over and over and over again. one of those problems that we have corrected and i want to make sure on the record that you could confirm that. we put in a provision last year that you cannot spend money building anything in areas of the country where we cannot get oversight personnel there to check and see the progress and to make sure the money is not walking away. are you confident now that there is no project that is ongoing with contractor money right now in afghanistan paid for by u.s. dollars where our oversight personnel cannot get to it to look at it? gen. nicholson: i believe so, ma'am, but i would like to take that one for the record and go back and verify that and give you a more thorough answer. sen. mccaskill: that would be terrific because what we learned is there were areas we were paying contractors, many of which are local contractors in
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areas that we couldn't get to because of security concerns. that is where the money was disappearing. and things were not getting built. and money was being wasted. 17 of the 45 construction projects that have been inspected since 2009 did not meet contract requirements and specifications. apparently, the dod has acknowledged in many instances that u.s. forces lacked capacity anddminister, oversee, close contracts to ensure proper performance. i know you're being asked to do a lot. i know it is hard. do you think you have adequate forces to do the oversight necessary on this contract work that is so incredibly expensive? gen. nicholson: the limitation on forces limits our ability to do oversight. there is no question about it. we are in a situation where we have to substitute contractors for service members to do
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functions that normally service members would do. i offered a couple of examples earlier -- for example, on aviation maintenance, we bring in contract mechanics to maintain our helicopters because we leave their mechanics back in the states because of forced manning limitations. i acknowledge i have the authority to move these forces around, but the overall limitations puts us in a situation that we try to optimize having uniform service members doing only what they can do and substituting contractors wherever possible to maximize our advisory effort. we have got to a point now, from a commander standpoint, would rather see soldiers doing what soldiers are trained to do, and then not spend money on contractors, which is more expensive. sen. mccaskill: inevitably .
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and it is one of these things and we do this a lot and government under the guise of saying we are going to limit how many employees we have and what our ground strength is, but that doesn't change the requirements of a federal agency and certainly doesn't change the mission of our military. so, we just bring up contractors without adequate scoping, without adequate work, without oversight, paying contractors bonuses when they have done a terrible job. i did not want this moment to pass without telling you that we are paying close attention on the contractor side. i look forward to working with you on that. corruption is a big part of this. do you believe that we have made any progress overall in afghanistan on the corruption front? gen. nicholson: i think we have made some progress recently. sen. mccaskill: i know he did that government agency. the development phase of the ac
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jc, the anticorruption effort he is doing. gen. nicholson: the anticorruption justice center, stood up by president ghani, with the support of the community, we had our first trial of a two star general. he was convicted of 14 years in jail for engagement in bribery concerning a fuel contract. we have pulled back fuel contracts because of the corruption that was linked to them. we are going after the reduction of ghost soldiers. we are holding back the money in terms of pay accounts until they can verify they have the people. these efforts alone -- for example, fuel contracts totaled $200 million. by putting them under control of our contracting officials, we can reduce the space for corruption. the same with the pay. these are the two greatest areas . i should point out that
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president ghani initiated a body called the national procurement council, and he now personally oversees the awarding of the large government contracts in a committee that is transparent. we attended. our own contracting officials attended. they work through a rigorous process to reduce the space for corruption. so, back to your original question. i do think under that president's leadership, we can make progress. our refinished -- are we finished ?i do think under the ? absolutely not. sen. mccaskill: for the record, if we could get the relative strength in numbers of the 20 different terrorist groups you say are on the ground in afghanistan, that would be good to get it in perspective where the numbers are in any help you can get us. gen. nicholson: we got that. sen. mccaskill: thank you, mr. chairman. >> general nicholson, thank you for your leadership and for your concise answers to tough
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questions. if this has been asked before and you have answered, we will go to the record. i'm sorry i was not able to be here. i've three competing committee hearings right now. let the authorization for the use of military force and a presidential policy guidelines. when i was in afghanistan, it looked like there were kinks two years ago in terms of being able to take the fight to people that maybe should be targeted. do you feel like we are getting to a point where you have all of the authorizations under presidential policy guidelines, which i assume are being modified as we speak or at least being assessed? and can you talk a little bit about the need to revisit authorization for the use of military force in the area you are concerned with? what would be the benefit or disadvantage? gen. nicholson: i feel i have the authorities necessary to
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strike in the areas we need to. this will be an issue that we will discuss with my chain of command going forward. and as we discussed earlier, we are engaged in those conversations right now about the authorities going forward. i would ask your indulgence to let those conversations play out. on the specific authorities, the ones that i was granted in june were instrumental to our success this year. with those authorities, i can strike in the areas where we need to, when we need to. if i could come back to you senator in another forum on the specifics, i would request that. sen. tillis: thank you. i think those were some of the authorities we were talking about when we visited afghanistan two years ago. glad to see they have come along. you mentioned earlier the inestment by other nations
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the economic side and development side in afghanistan. two years ago, we were talking about a potential cliff we were running over in 2017 because of funding to get infrastructure in place to get rid of corruption and to continue to build. do you feel like we have overcome that threat and that we have got the adequate amount of nonmilitary funding flowing in from our partner nations to keep the economic revival going? gen. nicholson: yes, senator. this year, we had the brussels donor conference in october. the afghan government made an effort in engaging with all the donors. we had over 75 countries there and they expressed an intent to commit $15.2 billion to afghans development. this was a significant success story for afghanistan. this builds upon the success of the warsaw conference at which the alliance committed to four
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more years. i believe there was a connection between this and the confidence demonstrated in the afghan security forces at the warsaw summit to commit to four more years provided assurance to the donors that there would be a more secure environment going forward. our job is to work with the afghans to improve the security situation and break the stalemate, and get to a place where they can apply these development dollars, most effectively. sen. tillis: the questions that senator mccaskill was running down -- i will go down and listen to the dialogue on the tail end. way, are we on a positive end in terms of corruption in afghanistan? gen. nicholson: positive, but we have a lot of work left to do. sen. tillis: thank you, and thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thanks for having this hearing, which is so important. general nicholson, i join my
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colleagues in thanking you for your service. everyone who works with you and under you, thank them as well. you mentioned in your testimony, and i am quoting of the 98 u.s. designated terrorist organizations globally, 20 are located the afghanistan for last pakistan region? this constitutes the highest terror groups in any place in the world. are we getting the kind of cooperation we need from the pakistani? gen. nicholson: senator, we like to see greater cooperation. sen. blumenthal: where view has it in your been deficient? gen. nicholson: with respect to the connie network and taliban, inside pakistan. sen. blumenthal: and that would be the northern area of pakistan? gen. nicholson: it would be the
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tribal areas of pakistan, north and west, primarily the western areas. so around the city of quota where taliban leadership resides. and in other areas. sen. blumenthal: that area has bedeviled us for years, correct? gen. nicholson: correct. sen. blumenthal: are we doing enough to bring pressure on the pakistani government to be more aggressive and active because my understanding is that the materials for ied's, a lot of the other kind of support for our adversaries in afghanistan continue to come from that area of pakistan? gen. nicholson: that is correct, senator. with respect to pressure, i think we need to do a holistic review of our relationship with pakistan.
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there are many areas of common interest where we can work together and we want to achieve progress in these areas, but you are absolutely right. it has been frustrating. sen. blumenthal: i know, general nicholson, you are absolutely right in that statement. but i've heard that view from commanders in your position repeatedly over the years as have my colleagues. what will and can be done to change it? gen. nicholson: sir, i think this is a key discussion with my chain of command and with the secretary of defense, with the white house, i think this needs to be at the top of the agenda when it comes to the future of our policy in the region. i know my chain of command is ready to have a conversation. i would ask your indulgence to not get in front of my chain of command on this particular topic. i know this is at the very top of our list when it comes to the future in the region. sen. blumenthal: i appreciate of your cannot be ahead
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chain of command, but you are an integral part of that chain of command and one of the most able parts of that chain. and so, i hope you will convey the urgency of that message. i know you feel it more than we do, but i think that a lot of americans are frustrated at the bordering nation, which purports to be allied on so many areas is still the source of hostile resources and fighters and others who commit the kinds of acts you relayed just this morning with the serious wounds suffered by one of our special operators. gen. nicholson: yes, sir, it is the number one factor that can produce a positive result in afghanistan. it is critical.
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you mentioned a range of actions that i think this is exactly what we need to consider. on both ends of the spectrum. sen. blumenthal: i appreciate that and thank you for your frankness to the committee. i just want to ask briefly about one other area concerning helicopters. as you know, because you responded to our letter, senator ernst and i wrote to the department of defense asking that it developed a plan to field an american alternative to the mi 17, which it has done. announced their intention to replace the mi 17 with blackhawks as part of the fy 17 supplement all funding to support overseas contingency operations. could you comment briefly on the status of that effort? gen. nicholson: sir, i am told
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that this will be a part of the next supplemental submission that will be made. it has not been completed yet, but it is an issue i have raised because this is critical and there is an urgency to getting this program going. it will take from the time the funding is approved to the aircraft arrival on the battlefield over 20 months. and so we want to get these aircraft and these crews into the fight as soon as possible. it will be critical to the offensive effort to regain the territory and the population that the government seeks to regain to break the stalemate. so, this is why this particular aviation i issue is so critical going forward. the use of u.s. training deepens the relationship with the afghans and the united states, and of course, much of that funding goes back into the u.s. economy. sen. blumenthal: my time has
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expired, but i appreciate your efforts in that regard and i would like to stay current on them. thank you very much. gen. nicholson: we will keep you updated, senator. sen. blumenthal: thanks, general nicholson. graham: thank you for what you do for protecting our nation. i cannot thank you and those serving in afghanistan enough. you mentioned in your testimony that you see a change in russian behavior for the worst. is that correct? gen. nicholson: yes, senator. why are there goals changing? gen. nicholson: the goal is to undermine united states and nato. sen. graham: ok. i agree with you. what about iran? gen. nicholson: it is a little more complex. there are mutual interest that afghanistan and iran share we offered afghanistan and
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economic alternative. sen. graham: they have backyard issues, but they also have the strategic goal of stopping democracy. gen. nicholson: their actions are undermining the afghan government, similar to what the russians are doing. sen. graham: is a clear the wantians do not democracy on their border? gen. nicholson: sir, i think it would be a threat to them. sen. graham: do you think the afghans want democracy? gen. nicholson: yes, senator. they want a representative form of government. they have had a form of social government that has existed for centuries. sen. graham: but a democracy if they are practicing is relatively new to the country? gen. nicholson: yes, senator. sen. graham: and it is hard. gen. nicholson: yes, and it is hard. sen. graham: yes, and it is hard here. can we win? gen. nicholson: yes we can.
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sen. graham: briefly describe what winning would look like. gen. nicholson: number one, it protects our homeland. sen. graham: winning for america is to protect afghanistan and the terroristt of agencies in the region. gen. nicholson: yes, sir. they call this their foundational partnership. sir, it would involve the destruction of al qaeda and afghanistan. the destruction of islamic state in afghanistan and helping the afghan government to expand its control over the population. sen. graham: is it fair to say that most afghans want the same thing when it comes to al qaeda? gen. nicholson: yes, sir. sen. graham: so we are in line with the afghan people? yes,nicholson:, yo sir. sen. graham: so that is winning for them in winning for us? gen. nicholson: yes, sir. the taliban is who is connected to al qaeda. 87% of the afghan people says
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that the return to afghan rule would be bad for the country. that's a conversation i need to have my chain of the command . there definitely are enemy in afghanistan. sen. graham: is it fair to say that the taliban aided bin laden? gen. nicholson: absolutely. sen. graham: if we designated them as a terrorist organization, would you have more authority when it comes to engaging them? gen. nicholson: sir, if i was granted those authorities at administration, i would. sen. graham: would you use them? gen. nicholson: sen. graham: absolutely. would that change the momentum on the battlefield? gen. nicholson: it would. sen. graham: what does losing look like? gen. nicholson: it would be an attack emanating from this region. sen. graham: is that possible if we leave? gen. nicholson: absolutely. sen. graham: is it likely if we leave? gen. nicholson: yes, sir. just a matter of time. sen. graham: when it comes to staying, do you have the ability
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to ask for more troops? gen. nicholson: i think the conversation is open for that. sen. graham: do you think this administration is open to more troops from what you can tell in the early stages? gen. nicholson: my initial impression and these conversations are ongoing is that we are open to a discussion of an objective space approach -- sen. graham: rather than an artificial number? gen. nicholson: yes, sir. sen. graham: your goal is to convey that the best thing to happen for our success in afghanistan is to have troop levels against the objectives? gen. nicholson: the objectives and the conditions on the ground. sen. graham: and the objective is to win? gen. nicholson: yes, sir. sen. graham: the objective is to stop from growing terrorism here. it is to keep afghan stable on a rule of law. gen. nicholson: yes, sir. sen. graham: do you believe you can do that with less than 50,000 troops? gen. nicholson: yes, sir. sen. graham: do you believe you
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can do that with less than 30,000 troops? gen. nicholson: that is a conversation i need to have a chain of command, but yes. sen. graham: used think it is fair to say that success in afghanistan is not based on the day we leave but what we leave behind? gen. nicholson: yes, sir. sen. graham: do you think we can leave behind a stable afghanistan? gen. nicholson: yes sir. nelson.or sen. nelson: if the russians understated goal is to undermine the influence of the united states, when did this effort start? gen. nicholson: with respect to afghanistan, they have not stated that as their goal. nelson: that is your opinion and i agree with you. when did evidence of them cozying up to the taliban start?
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gen. nicholson: just in the last year it started and this is a gradual progression. sen. nelson: is that progression increasing? gen. nicholson: yes, sir. sen. nelson: i think we better let president trump know that. if russia is cozying up to the ,aliban and that is a kind word if they are giving equipment that we have some evidence that the taliban is getting it and other things that we can't mention in this unclassified setting, and the taliban is also associated with al qaeda, therefore russia indirectly is helping al qaeda. gen. nicholson: yes, sir. sen. nelson: in afghanistan. gen. nicholson: the taliban are the medium for many of these other terrorist groups to
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operate. because of the convergence of these groups. your logic is absolutely sound, sir. sen. nelson: does that include isis? gen. nicholson: we don't see the same level of cooperation between the taliban and isis. they are in conflict with one another. but the taliban is not achieving the key effects in reducing isis. that's coming from the united states and the afghan counterterrorism effort. in response to senator graham, you said, when we leave -- restate what you said. we can leave, in your opinion, we can leave a stable afghanistan? gen. nicholson: i think brecon station -- reconciliation would be the goal between the belligerents and afghanistan. this is what the government want
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s -- a reconciliation with the belligerents. earlier this year there was a reconciliation. 20,000 of them are returning to afghanistan to be reintegrated into society. if this goes well, hopefully this would be a catalyst for further reconciliation. that's the ultimate goal. when i say stability, it means ultimately a political reconciliation. so our objective will be to assist the afghans to achieve that. part of that is military pressure. so president ghani's approach to this has been fight, fracture, talk. we need to keep military pressure on them. articulated some of the ways in which to do that -- through special forces, to increase control. through diplomatic engagement with pakistanis to increase pressure on that. this would be a whole government approach, but the objective of this would be an eventual reconciliation. this will take some years, i
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believe. sen. nelson: does that reconciliation include the taliban? gen. nicholson: ideally, the taliban would reconcile and that would remove their support for these groups that cannot exist without them. sen. nelson: how does the taliban reconcile with the government of afghanistan when they're being aided and abetted by the russians to counter all of our efforts? gen. nicholson: you are exactly right. this is the challenge. this requires a whole-government approach diplomatically as well as militarily to get to a reconciliation. sen. nelson: so you don't see a dynamic between isis and the taliban? gen. nicholson: they are ideologically in conflict and then in practical matters, they're vying for control in certain areas, but i don't see an effective effort by the taliban against isis. sen. nelson: but you have to be careful about that in the future because obviously isis, just like al qaeda, would be against
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our interests, u.s. interests. gen. nicholson: absolutely, sir. what we have seen is fighters changing allegiances. i think this is an important point to note. one of the dangers in this area is that fighters would change allegiance, for example, from the pakistani taliban and join isis. so the majority of the fighters in isis right now came from the t.t.p., the pakistani taliban, and joined the banner of isis. sen. nelson: do you think there's any reason that the russians, other than trying to undermine us, would be wanting to expand their sphere of influence and take back the territory that they got whipped and had to leave afghanistan with their tail between their legs? gen. nicholson: senator, i think they are concerned that if
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there's a coalition, a u.s. presence in afghanistan, that this affects their ability to influence the central asian states to the north. i do think this is part of their concern. sen. nelson: i agree. thank you, mr. chairman. >> on behalf of chairman mccain, i recognize senator. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you general nicholson for being here and for your service ,.. i want to pick up on senator nelson's line of questioning because as you said in your testimony, we're seeing russian influence in afghanistan only recently. earlier, four or five years ago, we were actually bring in our supply line through -- with russia's help into afghanistan. so what has changed the dynamic there? ma'am, so within
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the last year is when we have seen this shift to this over legitimizing of the taliban and then reports of support provided to the taliban and others in the north. so i think getting a little bit out of the just purely afghan context, undoubtedly the issues we're seeing in iraq and syria, in terms of cooperation with the russians and that effort, perhaps there's some spillover from that. secondly would be again this concern about central asia and the desire to maintain their influence in central asia. so this narrative of a threat spilling over from afghanistan is touching a nerve with the central asian republics because during the anti-soviet jihad and what followed, they had this concern. and then in central asia there is a concern about terrorism and i think it's fair to say there are legitimate concerns that russia has about the region with
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respect to counternarcotics because much of the narcs flow from afghanistan into russia and then secondly, the spread of terrorism. it is a concern, but we are dealing with that concern. so there's no acknowledgment that the u.s. government, the afghans, are working together to contain this terrorist threat. sen. shaheen: is there any evidence that the russians are providing money, material fighters to the taliban? gen. nicholson: ma'am, we don't have -- there's some classified reporting that i'd request to share with you at another venue , but we are concerned in general about support and i'll leave it at that. sen. shaheen: what does this mean for the dynamic between russia and pakistan? are we seeing additional engagement in pakistan because of what's happening in afghanistan? gen. nicholson: ma'am, we are seeing additional engagement by the russians with pakistan
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. there was recently a training exercise conducted in pakistan with russian troops and we have again reporting of increased conversations going on in the country about potential support to these groups. sen. shaheen: clearly, given pakistan's nuclear arsenal, that should give us all much more reason to be very concerned about what's happening in that region. gen. nicholson: yes, ma'am. sen. shaheen: i had the opportunity when we had the , confirmation hearing for secretary mattis, to ask him about our special immigrant visa program for iraq and afghanistan, which, as i'm sure you are very aware, has made a huge difference for our men and women serving on the ground. my understanding is that we are soon going to run out of visas, s.i.v. visas for afghans who are in the pipeline to come to the u.s. who are being threatened.
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can you speak to how important you think that program is and why we should extend it to make sure we address those people who have been so helpful to us? gen. nicholson: thank you, senator, for your support for that program. as you may be aware, a wrote -- i wrote a letter to chairman mccain last year on this program. we're strong supporters of this program because these brave afghans, who have fought alongside us and served alongside us, we believe strongly deserve the opportunity, if they wish, if they so desire, to participate in this program. we do have a backlog and we do have many, many afghans who would like to come to the united states and i know many of these afghans who have come and joined our society, they're very productive citizens, great contributors, and so i strongly support this program and will continue to do so and offer my help in any way i can. sen. shaheen:
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sen. shaheen: i really appreciate that. can you also talk about what you think the message would be if we end the program and refuse to allow in anymore people who have helped us? gen. nicholson: yes, ma'am, i think this would be the wrong message to send to our afghan gen. nicholson: yes, ma'am, i think this would be the wrong message to send to our afghan partners, just to give one data point on the fighting, the difficulty of the fighting as has been mentioned several times here today. the afghans are willing and want to fight for their country and
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so in one year, in this period we just had, the last two years, they have suffered almost twice as many casualties as we suffered in the previous 10 years. i just mention that, not to highlight the casualties but as an indicator of the depth of commitment of these afghans to our common cause. they don't want terrorists in their country. they want a peaceful and stable environment for their families. they want to improve the world that they live in for their children. they share many, many objectives with us. so these afghans who have worked alongside us, who have taken great risks, i think deserve this opportunity if they so desire to come to the united states. sen. shaheen: thank you very much. >> on behalf of chairman mccain, senator kaine. senator kaine: i was back an forthing with the committee, i took your testimony up and read
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it to our witnesses and i wanted to ask you about it, i know others have asked you. on page 10, russia has overtly lended legitimacy to the the gen. nicholson: there may be, but i have not seen it. i think these are two separate issues. but we know there's a dialogue a relationship between russia and iran. russia is selling advanced weapons systems to iran. we know there's communication between them. sen. kaine: russia and iran are deeply engaged together in the campaign in syria. iran allowed russia to use air bases in iran for the syrian campaign. gen. nicholson: yes, sir. sen. kaine: so it seems unlikely they would be both engaging in efforts to bolster or prop up the taliban completely independently of one another. at least they are probably
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communicating about those efforts. wouldn't you say that is fair? gen. nicholson: absolutely. we believe they are communicating about the effort, we believe, and that the effect of their efforts would -- are undermining the afghan government. sen. kaine: there was a statement the president made a couple weeks back or he thought he could ally with russia and potentially use russia as a check against iran. tell me if you don't feel that you can comment on that, that's a fair answer, but i wonder do you think that that's realistic? that given all the areas where russia and iran are now working to at least promote a similar purpose, including, according to your testimony, in afghanistan, do you think it's likely that the u.s. could peel russia away from its cooperation and coordination with iran? gen. nicholson: i haven't had the chance to discuss that with my chain of command.
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that has not been something we've looked at as an option. i look at it from an afghan perspective. i think there's areas of interest iran has with afghanistan. sen. kaine: because of being on the border? gen. nicholson: exactly. i think the afghans are trying to establish a state-to-state relationship with iran to deal with these matters of mutual concern. sen. kaine: anti-opium production? gen. nicholson: yes, sir. counter narcotics. the trade. and then what the afghans would seek to reduce is eliminate support to the taliban, let's deal with each other as neighbors. and let's work on these areas of mutual interest. so i think there's potential in the afghan-iranian relationship for a more positive outcome than what we see with the rest relationship. -- russian relationship. the russians lack legitimacy in afghanistan because of the soviet jihad. millions of afghans were killed by russians and russian-backed forces in afghanistan. so there's a legitimacy question when it comes to russia's involvement in afghanistan that is right at the forefront of
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this conversation with the afghan people. sen. kaine: it shows how anti-nato russia is that they would engage with elements of the taliban, some of whom were responsible for kicking the soviet union out of afghanistan, that they would try to bolster the taliban as a check against nato influence in afghanistan. that is a pretty bold statement of how much they hate nato. gen. nicholson: it is surprising, senator, especially when you consider the taliban's involvement in the narcotics trade and the detrimental impact that narcotics from afghanistan are having on russian society. sen. kaine: i met with the afghan ambassador to the united states yesterday, and we had a good visit. one thing he said to me, i just am curious as to your opinion on this -- sometimes you know, our military or intel don't see it the same way as they see it, as
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they're describing it. he said the thing that's most exciting to afghans is that they have a national identity, a national voice. they're discussing tough issues. some of which are hard to solve. but they're discussing the openly and publicly. he painted a pretty positive view of the civil government and the relationship between the members of the coalition. i'm curious if your view is as positive? gen. nicholson: yes, senator, we have an extremely positive relationship with the government. we work very closely on the security equities going forward. i think that the tough fight they experienced this year and the -- that threw us together in ways, the use of our authorities and, our soldiers advising and assisting them on the ground the way we did and the way they prevailed, there's nothing like going through a difficult, shared experience to bring you closer. and i think the afghans are convinced of our commitment to them. they saw the international community at warsaw commit to
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four more years in afghanistan, and the international donor community came together with $15 billion, so i think the afghan people took those as very reassuring signs, despite the difficulty of the fight. what they saw was strong commitment at the strategic level by the international community to peace and stability in afghanistan. sen. kaine: thank you so much. mr. mccain: general, thank you for your testimony. thank you for a very informative exchange you've had with the members here. i think there's one point that's very obvious, as we discussed at the beginning, is that we're not winning. and i know that you have been asked by our secretary of defense and others for a and -- for a strategy to change that equation, and i know you haven't fleshed all that out, but you've been faced with this situation for quite a period of time.
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we look forward to sharing with you -- or you sharing with us the elements of that strategy , and we, on both sides, obviously, are committed to seeing this situation resolved in a more beneficial fashion. as we said at the beginning, we have been there many years, and there's been a great sacrifice made by afghans and our brave americans, and we need a strategy to succeed. and if we can know that strategy, which is being developed, i hope, i can assure you you will receive the bipartisan, strong support from members of this committee and the congress. but we need to develop that strategy, and we need to know what assets and capabilities and support that the congress can give you. so we thank you for your service, we thank you for your testimony this morning, and
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unfortunately, tragically for you, some of us will be visiting you in kabul. thank you, general. gen. nicholson: look forward to your visit, senator. thank you very much for the opportunity. sen. mccain: really? [laughter] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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>> the u.s. senate is in session today, debating the nomination of steve mnuchin. senatoron the floor elizabeth warren. there are speeches only today, no votes. to vote for the treasury secretary is set for 7:00 p.m. monday. then, the senate will vote on david shelton to be the new veterans affairs secretary. another, here next week. the confirmation hearing for labor secretary will be thursday live on c-span 3 at 10:00 in the morning.
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watch live and listen live on the c-span radio app. earlier today, new education secretary betsy devos was to jeffersongo academy in washington, d.c., a gathering organized by the washington teachers association. she was blocked by protesters and then left. >> you do not represent anything they stand for. >> buying your way into the position. you should be so proud of yourself. >> go back. shame, shame, shame, shame.
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>> house democrats closing out their three day policy were treat in baltimore this morning. democrat joe crowley picked this -- tweeted this picture out with nancy pelosi and this message -- we are thrilled to have chelsea handler helping close our fighting for all policy conference today. baltimore, nancy pelosi joe crowley recapped their meeting in a news conference. >> good morning. i am joe crowley. we are here, coming near the close of our issues conference of

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